Palliative Care Consultation Reduces Heart Failure Transitions: A Matched Analysis



Palliative care supports quality of life, symptom control, and goal setting in heart failure (HF) patients. Unlike hospice, palliative care does not restrict life‐prolonging therapy. This study examined the association between palliative care during hospitalization for HF on the subsequent transitions and procedures.

Methods and Results

Veterans admitted to hospitals with HF from 2010 to 2015 were randomly selected for the Veterans Administration External Peer Review Program. Variables pertaining to demographic, clinical, laboratory, and usage were captured from Veterans Administration electronic records. Patients receiving hospice services before admission were excluded. Patients who received palliative care were propensity matched to those who did not. The primary outcomes were whether the patient experienced transitions or procedures in the 6 months after admission. Transitions included multiple readmissions (≥2) or intensive care admissions and procedures included mechanical ventilation, pacemaker implantation, or defibrillator implantation. Among 57 182 hospitalized HF patients, 1431 received palliative care, and were well matched to 1431 without (standardized mean differences ≤ ±0.05 on all matched variables). Palliative care was associated with significantly fewer multiple rehospitalizations (30.9% versus 40.3%, P<0.001), mechanical ventilation (2.8% versus 5.4%, P=0.004), and defibrillator implantation (2.1% versus 3.6%, P=0.01). After adjustment for facility fixed effects, palliative care consultation was associated with a significantly reduced hazard of multiple readmissions (adjusted hazard ratio=0.73, 95% CI, 0.64–0.84) and mechanical ventilation (adjusted hazard ratio=0.76, 95% CI, 0.67–0.87).


Palliative care during HF admissions was associated with fewer readmissions and less mechanical ventilation. When available, engagement of HF patients and caregivers in palliative care for symptom control, quality of life, and goals of care discussions may be associated with reduced rehospitalizations and mechanical ventilation.

The full study is available in the Journal of the American Heart Association.